May 24, 2018

Stumbling Into Summer

I was woken by the 'plink' of a bite indicator reluctantly releasing it's grip followed by a light fizz as the bait runner yielded a foot or so of Berkley Connect. I was at the rod in a moment and soon landed a small but scrappy common. The fish was quickly released and the rod put back on the pod - without recasting.

That was at 4am. I lay there wondering how I'd managed to leave the alarm switched off but just put it down to my idiocy and the unusual mood I'd been in the previous day.

It was a trip I'd been looking forward to. The trials of a week in France had only served to fuel my enthusiasm to catch on my home water. A few days in Dorset in the caravan (yes, I'm that old) and freedom was mine but my head wasn't quite right and I was in some sort of a fug of apathy and indecision. Sorting my gear and loading up the car took longer than for my week away and I still managed to forget several semi-important things. I did consider loading my 3lb test rods for the big chuck at the wide end of the lake to a point where I just know is going to produce for me but, in the confusion that is my tackle room, I could not place them so I shrugged and figured the narrows had always done me well at this time of year. Big mistake.

Yet to make double figures but a star of the future
At the lake the wind barely rippled 20% of it's surface but it was heading away from my chosen spot. No matter, something crashed out in the bay at my end so I figured I could still tempt a lump or two my way. Another member had just set up in the area I'd considered and told me of the amount of fish he'd seen cruising about, sowing the seeds of doubt into my addled brain.

I'd mistakenly brought my two-man bivvy but squeezed it onto a one-man ledge. I drove around and baited from the opposite bank as the spod-rod was one of those items sat moping at home having missed it's trip to the outdoors. So too was some of my bait but I figured I had enough.... just.

I sat back on my chair, tired but happy to be fishing. The chair collapsed. A missing nut was lost somewhere in the long grass so I had only the bedchair to rest on. I lay on the bed and promptly fell asleep.

At 10:30 pm I reeled in and slept the night away until 5:30 when I cast my two rods back to their spots. I felt better for the rest and was soon landing a pretty little linear that one day will be one of the stars of the lake.

I spent the day absorbing the warm atmosphere of an early summer in full bloom. A symphony of greens and blue above but with less bird species than usual, where are the warblers?

After my little common I had a very stocky fish of about 16-18lbs. It was hard to guesstimate as it was short, wide and solid. It lay on my unhooking cradle with every fin erect and it's mouth open, it seemed shocked by the entire episode and I guess it hasn't seen the bank very often, if at all. Another common closed the session and I felt purged somehow.

Pure defiance
I reluctantly packed and spoke to the chap fishing where I might well have done. He'd had ten fish with at least six or was it seven going over 20lbs. The best of which I had previously nipped to his pitch to photograph, went 32 and a bit. But it didn't matter. I had a rest and a few bites, he was up all hours weight lifting. I'll be a bit more inclined that way for my next trip..... possibly.

In between my woeful attempts at fishing and soaking up the atmosphere I read a book - Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham. It's breathtaking. A deep revelation into the world of youth, isolation and mental health set against an obsessive interest in wildlife. I recognised my youthful self in the obsession with all things natural but never on this level however, knowing someone with Aspergers I could relate to much of what was happening at the core of the tale and how poorly such conditions were viewed until recent times. It is spell binding, beautifully crafted and has left a deep impression on me.

May 08, 2018

The Carp, The Crack, The Snake Wrangling and the Mouse.

The trip to France with my old mate Paddy finally arrived. His anticipation level was through the roof and I was really looking forward to a week together and a few fish.

With cars laden to the roof we made our way south from Cherbourg and finally arrived at a small but very attractive pool where the fish were putting on a fins display of bubbling and occasionally showing on the top. It was mild and everything looked great. The first night was spent in the gite whilst our loose feed did it's job, all we had to do was get up and fish the next day.

It began well, Paddy had an early fish, a common of 21.11 and his personal best. He'd never quite cracked the twenty mark and here it was at 9.45 on the first morning. Happy days. I followed up almost immediately with a 28.10 mirror. We basked in our morning's success..... and it began to rain.

A stunning common for Paddy

It rained throughout the rest of the day and into the next. I was chilled and aching so I opted for a hot shower and a night indoors whilst Paddy stuck at it taking several more nice fish including a 32lb common next morning.  We celebrated by going to the supermarket for provisions ...... and food.

The rest of the day saw Spangle bollocks take more fish and I fluked a mid-double common and a mirror that looked like it had spawned on the gravel drive. That evening I had another modest common and a low twenty mirror at 11.30pm whilst the lake was shrouded in mist and the temperature plummeted. The coldest night I ever spent in a bivvy was in France many years ago when a freezing fog enveloped us. I got out for a leak just before first light then shivered in my sack and later on the bank until the sun broke through at ten or eleven am. Yet here I was again, waking in the small hours to put socks on (I never sleep with socks on), and wrapping everything I could find around me to stop me from freezing to death.

The sun came out the next day but the wind had turned easterly.  But we still caught and Paddy went stalking. I also had a dabble in a little corner that was peppered by bubbles from feeding fish. After a while I climbed the lower branches of an oak tree. I've fallen out of the last three trees I've climbed so was a tad edgy to say the least. My tenuous foot hold was just holding me and I imagined looking down and seeing my line tighten just before I fell and did horrendous damage to myself. I looked down and yes, the line tightened! I made a safe but ungraceful descent only to find the fish had doubtless been scared off by the commotion.

Paddy hit his nirvana with a 37.08 common but I rallied with a 33.10 common later on. It has to be said that despite his previous misfortunes in the carp world, Paddy was having an absolute beano session and ended up with twice as many fish as me, catching the first, the most, the biggest and even the smallest fish. I am genuinely delighted for the lucky bastard, this break was all about him getting the fish of his dreams and he did that over and over again.

33lb common

37lb common

We had some fun with the wild life too. The bird life was astounding with insomniac nightingales all around us - just when do they eat or sleep? The marsh frogs were loud and entertaining. They'd respond to noises we made and begin their "All right" call - in a very East End accent, which would set the other frogs all around the lake into a cacophony of froggy chat. I initiated a few chorus's by saying "Aw roit" in my best barrow seller voice, only to get a host of froggy "I am" responses. That never got old.

We'd also been told of the local Aesculapian snake population, France's biggest reptile that constricts rather than injects venom into it's hapless victims. We were keen to see one and, one day as we returned from the shops, Andy (who looks after the lake), was leaping around something in the grass and worrying that Max, his dog, might succumb. As it slipped into cover I grabbed the snake for a better look. I've caught loads of grass snakes but they were easy and usually play dead as they poo a horrid repellant all over your hands. But Mr Aesculapian, doubtless peeved by it's ridiculous name, has other ideas and as I moved my hand to grasp it behind it's head, it turned and sank it's not inconsiderable fangs into the back of my hand. I pulled free but it just did the same again. I watched it twisting it's head to maximise the grip whilst it's last couple of feet wrapped firmly around my other wrist. It was fascinating. I've had a mild but fangless bite from brer grass snake but here was a serpent having a right old go at little old me. I quite enjoyed the experience.

At five foot plus, it was a beautiful specimen and I quickly let it go after a picture or three. Andy looked a little unsettled by the event.

Our last day was very hot and the fish took to sunbathing. We had one each but spotted a couple of lumps we'd missed out on and which topped the 40lb mark.

We packed everything away carefully leaving room for a bottle or two. I checked under the bonnet and scratched my head at the torn cover over the battery. "I don't think that was like that before" I mused and later showed Paddy but, as I lifted the bonnet, so I found the culprit - a mouse, sat in his little nest. I think I scared it off but since I've got home the damned car alarm keeps sounding - is it still there? Where's all the Aesculapian snakes when you need one?

Mouse munchies